Fires and Resilience

Welcome, 2019. I’m happy to see you. I always love welcoming the new year. Just like I love celebrating birthdays. As my grandpa always said, it sure beats the alternative.

I’m not going to place any judgments on 2018. It was what it was. There were all sorts of beautiful and horrifying things happening simultaneously because that’s life and it’s full of dramatic dichotomies that we have to constantly navigate.

As a resident of Southern California, 2018 sure did get me thinking a lot about fires. Mostly because there were so many incredibly destructive fires that ravaged the region leaving ashes, confusion, and sadness in their wake.

Lives and homes were lost. There’s no getting those back. And there’s no part of me that wants to at all mitigate the genuine loss so many people affected by them felt. And we, as a global community, also felt through some of our precious natural resources being forever changed.

As the last fire of the year, the Woolsey Fire, overtook some favorite ares of my beloved Malibu – an area I have always adored visiting for its relaxed vibe and natural beauty. I found myself feeling what I can only imagine lots of humans felt…powerless and overwhelmed by sadness. Even though I understand fire is sometimes natural, I felt like we’ve done so much to hurt and destroy our gorgeous planet at this point that it always feels like we might be watching a natural disaster unfold that may be the turning point to keep us from having the balanced nature we need to survive as a species.

Maybe I’m being dramatic. But there’s some science to back up my notions.

But I’ve never been a dweller. I hate dwelling. You can stew for a minute if you need. You can let off steam occasionally. I don’t have issues with being in touch with your honest emotions. But I do have issues dwelling.

Rather than dwell, I started to think about what it could mean. What could I do to help and what does it mean to watch parts of the world I love burn down?

What I could do was start genuinely giving back to this planet in small and large ways. When I can, volunteer to help clean it up. Choose more green alternatives whenever possible with every purchase I make. Not only change elements of my lifestyle but change the companies that I support to make sure they have more environmentally conscious approaches to their output.

Say what you will about veganism and vegetarianism, but if the entire human population chose to do it for a single decade, we would give our earth a much needed reprieve from global warming. Then, maybe, when we reintroduce eating meat, we could do so in a more sustainable way. Nobody is asking for you to give up your lifestyle in any way – from what you eat to what you drive to what you choose to purchase or do.

It’s simply a matter of becoming aware that our planet has limited resources and maybe small decisions you make within the confines of those resources could help out your fellow humans so that we can continue to use those resources for longer without losing or ruining the ability to have them forever.

So there’s that. There’s small choices and lifestyle changes that could be made.

But even in embracing those and slowly weaving them into every day life, it doesn’t change the fact that, for at least a while longer, the earth will be mad at us and enacting a number of natural disasters as a result of our own manipulation of its resources. Maybe I shouldn’t say mad. That means that somehow we’ve angered it and it’s personifying something that, though I love referring to it as Mother Earth, it doesn’t need to have an human emotion attached. It’s simply reacting to years of human actions that have, at least so far, gone relatively unchecked. And, of course, none of this changes the fact that fires burned down people’s homes, livelihoods, and took lives.

That’s where it’s time to get a bit more philosophical about what it means. It’s easy – and easier to keep your heart stone and your emotions on an island away from everyone else – to say it means nothing. Nothing means anything and we’re all just feathers in the wind attempting to survive until our time floating around is done. But, at least for me, down that way lies madness. So I refuse to accept it.

Instead, I like to think of how to make it a positive thing. No, what happened isn’t inherently positive. And no, I don’t wish fire upon anyone so they can find the “meaning” behind it. But for fellow feathers still floating in the wind, I choose to see a beautiful symbolism behind the fires. There’s a chance to completely rebuild from the ground up. The old ways have been razed and it’s time we choose to rebuild them with a new perspective in mind.

I heard about these large trees who sprout seeds that often die because the roots of the trees they come from are too large and the forests they’d be sprouting in are too shaded from the massive trees. But if there’s a fire, those seeds not only survive, but need the fire to be planted into the ground. So the tree basically ensures its own survival from a fire.

Some brush needs fire in order for it to clear the old and grow new seedlings. Fire is natural and, at times, necessary. Knowing that, the question then become: What can we do to embrace it, learn from it, and grow into a culture that doesn’t become completely at its whim, but knows how to work with it for sustainable growth?

We get the chance not only to rebuild and to rethink, but to show resilience. Not to get all Batman on you, but we fall so that we may learn how to get back up. We’re creatures that are meant to be in movement. And movement means risk of failure and risk of falling. We’re not just risking failure when we choose to be in movement, we’re almost guaranteed it. But every time we get back up, we teach ourselves that we can. We remind ourselves that we can be strong and we can make new choices and we can learn, grow, and improve.

So, as Smokey the Bear would say, only you can prevent forest fires. Love nature and respect it. Let’s learn from our cumulative mistakes and agree to see the world for what it is – a community that is inherently interconnected with each other. Within that recognition and understanding, we may choose to help each other out by making small but meaningful decisions that will give the earth a chance to rebuild and give future generations a fighting chance of experiencing the beauty and balance that the world naturally wants to give us.

Oh, and more on bears next week…

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